The Babbel Blog

language learning in the digital age

Portrait: Aldo from Trieste

Posted on November 26, 2014 by

Portrait: Aldo from Trieste

We’re doing a series of portraits of Babbel users – a snapshot of their lives, and their reasons for learning a language. If you would like to share your story with us, please leave a comment below. This month we spoke with Aldo, a 70-year old man from Italy full of energy and motivation. Canoeing in the morning, chess in the afternoon, and now a new goal: learning English. (more…)

Tongue-twister challenge!

Posted on October 1, 2014 by

tongue-twister

When you’re learning a new language, tongue-twisters are a great way to practice your pronunciation. Tongue-twisters are sentences or series of words that are hard to say. They often have similar alternating sounds, like ‘s’ and ‘sh’ or ‘p’ and ‘b’. Although they are typically nonsense, the English classic “She sells sea shells on the sea shore, and the shells that she sells are sea shells, I’m sure” was actually a popular song in 1908 based on the life of Mary Anning, a famous British fossil hunter and collector.

To celebrate the release of our Swedish tongue-twisters course, we’ve selected eight tongue-twisters in different languages – English, German, Italian, French, Danish, Swedish, Turkish and Russian – and turned them into short animations. Can you master them? (more…)

The way to languages is through your stomach – new course around the Italian cuisine!

Posted on June 24, 2013 by

Read this post in German (Deutsch), French (Français)

I’m from Parma. You know. The ham. The cheese.

Whenever I try to explain how “it’s in the north of Italy, about halfway between Milan and Bologna,” whomever I’m talking to immediately interrupts and starts up about Parma ham and parmesan cheese. Though not without reason.

My area is known throughout Italy for its cold cuts. For us, the pig borders on sacred: in the dialects maiale (pig) has about as many names as there are communities. In my grandma’s village they even call it al nimal (l’animale)—simply, “the animal.” As they say, fish have no word for water…

The idea to make an Italian food course came out of experiences I had with a German friend of mine. I had always cooked Italian dishes, such as scaloppini ai Funghi—a cutlet fried in butter with mushrooms. And then would come the inevitable question: “isn’t there something to go with it?“ Go with it??? What did he think the mushrooms were? “No, I mean the side dish“ Ah. The side dish. And then he slapped down some rice as a … side dish. Any self-respecting Italian would’ve then, depending on mood, burst out laughing or turned her nose up in disgust!

First of all, rice is a first course and can never, ever be served with a second course. Sacrilege!

Secondly, what “goes with” the meal in Italian is called a contorno and basta. You can eat bread… but bread is bread, it’s not a contorno.

So far so clear.

There had never been a course like this before on Babbel—so it was an entirely new concept. I had free reign—but no model. The hardest part, actually, ended up being the image search.

Sure, finding pictures of Italian food sounds easy, but what about when you’ve passed over the line from “whatever pasta with whatever sauce” to, for example, parpadelle (flat, wide pasta) with wild boar ragout? Then you must move slowly toward the stove yourself….

And so it happened I was still frying after midnight (I hate frying!) because I couldn’t find any pictures for the Ligurian dish latte dolce fritto. I had the pleasure of being able to cook dishes from my region, such as erbazzone (spinach and chard pie), which was eaten the next day in the office, or piadina con salsiccia e cipolle (pan-flatbread with Italian sausage and onion).

Unfortunately I was also unable to find good photos for a lot of the cold cuts. So when I was in Parma I was FORCED to buy speck (smoked ham), prosciutto cotto (cooked ham) and coppa (dry-cured pork neck) … and eat them. The things we do for work!

In this course you find out about genuine dishes from various regions in Italy. There’s lots of info about how they’re made as well as what is NOT typically Italian. Here’s an example for you: spaghetti alla Bolognese—a typical Italian dish? You can of course also eat spaghetti with Bolognese sauce, but any Italian would be embarrassed at the prospect. That kind of sauce comes from Bologna, and there, egg noodles like tagliatelle or lasagna are the typical ones. So the dish is actually tagliatelle alla bolognese.

Have I destroyed a myth? Try out the course and get to know lots of other exciting insider tips about Italian cuisine!

About the author: Around five years ago, Barbara Baisi, Italian translator and Finnish studies specialist, started in content and support (at that time still as a student). As of this year, she’s an integral and essential part of our content team at Babbel.

New Italian idioms course spices up your Babbel lessons

Posted on November 29, 2012 by

This post in : German (Deutsch), Francais (French), Spanish (Español), Italian (Italiano)­­

"avere gli occhi foderati di prosciutto"There’s almost no one who’s been with Babbel as long as Barbara. Around five years ago, the Italian translator and Finnish studies specialist started in content and support (at that time still as a student). As of this year, she’s an integral and essential part of our content team. Barbara is always unpacking yet another new language and knows what it means to have eyes lined with ham.

 

 

We use language to convey our thoughts and describe what we see. But the fact that we employ metaphors and images to do so is something we don’t always realize. You could say, “I already know the ropes,” but what ropes are those?  Idioms are deeply embedded in our consciousness, and we often take them at face value. But idioms give spice to language. They express what we mean, short and sweet, and depending on the language, can bring some of the more absurd images to mind…

That we at Babbel in particular can warm to such a theme is obvious: We’ve already published special courses for French, Spanish, Portuguese, English and Spanish “idioms.”  So, fresh out of the oven, here comes the new course on Italian idioms. Now you can find out what the Italians mean when they say “to arrive at the bean” (“capitare a fagiolo“), “to pretend to have a trader’s ears” (“fare orecchie da mercanti“), or to get two birds with a broad bean (“prendere due piccioni con una fava“).

Fundamentally, Babbel thinks important for you to commit phrases you’ve learned to long-term memory, and the intelligent review manager and audio-visual presentation of idioms help with that. But it’s certainly not always easy for us to find the right images, especially for things like, “It’s not flour from your sack” (“non è farina del tuo sacco“, which in English would be “it’s not your own work”) or “to have eyes lined with ham” (“avere gli occhi foderati di prosciutto“, in English “to stick one’s head in the sand”).

That was the challenge that we on the Babbel content team were happy to take on, though not without a good dose of humor: Why not bring the idioms to life ourselves? And so we actually put ham on our eyes and held a sack of flour in our hands for the camera, under the amused and perhaps envious gaze of the rest of the Babbel crew, who nevertheless must’ve gotten a sense of how fun our jobs can be.

If you’re “just dying” (meaning, you can’t wait) to try out this course, follow this link: We hope you “in bocca al lupo!“—no, not get in the wolf’s mouth, but break a leg!

Further new courses also are available for:

French: Refresher course 2
Swedish: Numbers
Portuguese: Grammar

Revamped Italian Course on Babbel

Posted on April 20, 2010 by

Image by jonrawlinson

With the release of  new features last week you’re seeing a lot of new technology, but what about the actual language learning material, you ask? After developing some new grammar courses for German and French and adding two entire new languages (Brazilian Portuguese and Swedish) in March, we’ve now created our first course in a new, streamlined format. All 34 lessons in our Beginner’s Italian Course are now available for learners whose first language is English, German, French or Spanish.  Starting with simple words and phrases like ciao and come stai, you’ll learn regular verb endings, pronunciation, numbers and a lot more. The final lessons cover more complex topics like travel, shopping and the city of Rome. Nine review steps help you to recap what you’ve  learned and commit it to long term memory. More updated courses for other languages – and for more advanced learners – to follow. Stay tuned.

Go directly to the course (after free sign-up).